SLG Syndication

SLG Syndication is committed to aggregating excerpts from news published by international news agencies and key insights on contemporary issues published by think tanks. Our aim is to facilitate the expansion of its reach while giving due credit to the original source.

ISKP Calls for Jihad Against India

On September first week, the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) published issue 13 of its Voice of Khurasan magazine which featured an article scorning India and a separate profile of an Indian jihadist, according to the report published in Militant Wire. As part of ISKP’s strategy of expanded regionalization and internationalization, India has become a higher priority enemy of the group, and recruitment efforts targeting Indian Muslims have been boosted, the report added.

The article, titled “A Message for the Oppressed Muslims in the Cow Worshippers’ State”, says there is a “genocide” occurring “under the nose of [the] UN”. ISKP says “Hindu fanatics” have subjected Muslims to “systematic oppression” for the last 75 years.

ISKP says it is up to individual Muslims to turn the situation around since actors such as “the taghut of Pakistan” do not intend to help their supposed coreligionists in Kashmir. Indian Muslims, they say, are the targets of “state-sponsored Hindu terrorism”. The author(s) warns that “our enemies are well prepared to destroy us” and that “they will not show us mercy”.

The solution, according to ISKP, is to “throw away the shackles of humiliation” and “return to your religion – i.e. jihad in the way of Allah.” ISKP says “the only way you will be able to reclaim your glory is to pledge your allegiance to our Khalifah and clean the historical land of Khilafah from the filths of idolatry and idolaters.”

Achieving full gender equality is still centuries away – UN

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At the current rate of progress, it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality, the Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The Gender Snapshot 2022 shows. Global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, violent conflict, climate change, and the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are further exacerbating gender disparities. The new report, launched today by UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), highlights that, at the current pace of progress, SDG 5 – achieving gender equality – will not be met by 2030.

Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director, said: “This is a tipping point for women’s rights and gender equality as we approach the half-way mark to 2030. It is critical that we rally now to invest in women and girls to reclaim and accelerate progress. The data show undeniable regressions in their lives made worse by the global crises – in incomes, safety, education and health. The longer we take to reverse this trend, the more it will cost us all”.

“Cascading global crises are putting the achievement of the SDGs in jeopardy, with the world’s most vulnerable population groups disproportionately impacted, in particular women and girls. Gender equality is a foundation for achieving all SDGs and it should be at the heart of building back better,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of UN DESA.

Without swift action, legal systems that do not ban violence against women, do not protect women’s rights in marriage and family, for instance denying women their right to pass on their nationality to their children, or to inherit, do not provide them with equal pay and benefits at work, do not guarantee their equal rights to own and control land, may continue to exist for generations to come.

At the current rate of progress, the report estimates that it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and at least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments. To eradicate child marriage by 2030, progress must be 17 times faster than progress of the last decade, with girls from the poorest rural households and in conflict-affected areas expected to suffer the most.

The report also points to a worrisome reversal on the reduction of poverty, and rising prices are likely to exacerbate this trend. By the end of 2022, around 383 million women and girls will live in extreme poverty (on less than 1.90 a day) compared to 368 million men and boys. Many more will have insufficient income to meet basic needs such as food, clothing and adequate shelter in most parts of the world. If current trends continue, in sub-Saharan Africa, more women and girls will live in extreme poverty by 2030 than today.

The invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war there is further worsening food insecurity and hunger, especially among women and children, limiting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and fuel, and propelling inflation. In 2021, about 38 per cent of female-headed households in war-affected areas experienced moderate or severe food insecurity, compared to 20 per cent of male-headed households.

Further facts and figures highlighted in the report include:

In 2020, school and preschool closures required 672 billion hours of additional unpaid childcare globally. Assuming the gender divide in care work remained the same as before the pandemic, women would have shouldered 512 billion of those hours.

Globally, women lost an estimated USD 800 billion in income in 2020 due to the pandemic, and despite a rebound, their participation in labour markets is projected to be lower in 2022 than it was pre-pandemic (50.8 per cent, compared to 51.8 per cent in 2019).

There are now more women and girls who are forcibly displaced than ever before: some 44 million women and girls by the end of 2021.

Today, over 1.2 billion women and girls of reproductive age (15-49) live in countries and areas with some restriction on access to safe abortion.

Ahead of the Transforming Education Summit taking place on the margins of the UN General Assembly, the report points out that achieving universal girls’ education, while not enough by itself, would improve such an outlook significantly. Each additional year of schooling can boost a girl’s earnings as an adult by up to 20 per cent with further impacts on poverty reduction, better maternal health, lower child mortality, greater HIV prevention and reduced violence against women.

The report showcases that cooperation, partnerships and investments in the gender equality agenda, including through increased global and national funding are essential to correct the course and place gender equality back on track.

Myanmar donates 1000 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka

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The ceremony to donate 1000 tons of rice from Myanmar to Sri Lanka was held at the Asia World Port Terminal on September 2 morning, local media in Naypyidaw has reported.

At the ceremony, Union Minister U Aung Naing Oo of the Ministry of Commerce said that this donation represents the compassion of Myanmar government and the public towards Sri Lankan people. He added that bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries will be enhanced in the future. He later handed over the documents concerning rice donation.

Afterwards, Sri Lankan ambassador handed over the letter of thanks to president of the Myanmar rice federation for organizing export of rice. He then expressed thanks to government and officials of Myanmar. He said, Sri Lanka is facing economic crisis at present and this kind of donation is of great assistance.

He also thanked Myanmar Prime Minister Senior-General Min Aung Haling for arranging this kind of donation.

She was a Miracle: Arundhati Roy remembers her mother

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For Arundhati Roy, her mother Mary Roy, who passed Thursday, was a miracle. But the celebrated author was also generous enough to share the goodness of her mother — to whom she offered the last kiss Friday afternoon — with everyone that mattered.

Mary Roy, the renowned educationalist was cremated on the premises of ‘Pallikoodam’, the school that she founded.

Arundhati had dedicated her debut novel, ‘The God of Small Things’ to her mother: For Mary Roy, who grew me up. Who taught me to say ‘excuse me’ before interrupting her in Public. Who loved me enough to let me go.

A copy of the book that fetched her the Man Booker Prize for fiction had been placed by the side of Mary before she was cremated.

“All people have spoken about my mother, what an extraordinary person she is and I don’t need to explain that to anyone because all of us know what a miracle she was,” Arundhati told a small gathering of friends and family that grieved the death of Mary Roy.

“She was one of the fiercest, most fabulous person that ever walked this earth. But the reason I wanted to speak now was to say that she didn’t do it alone.

“All of you, all of you, your faith and your love in her, especially at a time she was a single, divorced woman with two little children, with no backing.”

Mary Roy’s Pallikoodam had a humble beginning before it revolutionalised the education system in Kerala. It is known how Arundhati had suggested that name to her mother, who had been the institution’s head for 42 years.

She was 89 and is survived by two children, daughter Arundhati Roy, renowned writer and activist who won the 1997 Man Booker prize and son Lalit Roy. [ Photo ©  maktoobmedia]

“We remember we were five and six years old. We used to arrive at the rotary club. We were little, we had ‘choolu’, we used to come in the morning, we used to sweep up the cigarette stubs.

“We used to clean up the place, we used to put up tables and stools and it used to be the school. That is how this school started,” she remembered. “It started with the faith from a very few people, who believed in Mary Roy,” she added.

Arundhati Roy thanked everyone that shared the ‘extraordinary journey’ of her mother. “Without you, we will not be we, my brother will not be who he is, I will not be who I am. This town made us, sometimes by being cruel but that’s good too, you know. We didn’t turn out to be people who expect the world to just open up for us. It’s been such an extraordinary journey.”

This story is a part of SLG Syndication. Click here to read the original article published in On Manorama.

Sri Lanka: Gota Returns After Moonlight Flit

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Ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to the country Friday, an airport official said, seven weeks after he fled amid the island’s worst-ever economic crisis. Cabinet ministers and politicians have arrived at the airport to welcome former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa was festooned with flowers by a welcoming party of ministers and politicians as he disembarked at the main international airport, the official added — in a sign of his enduring influence in the Indian Ocean nation critics say he led to ruin.

“There was a rush of government politicians to garland him as he came out of the aircraft,” the official told AFP.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka under military escort in mid-July after unarmed crowds stormed his official residence, following months of angry demonstrations blaming him for the nation’s unprecedented economic crisis. He sent in his resignation from Singapore before flying on to Thailand, from where he had petitioned his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe to facilitate his return.

The 73-year-old leader arrived from Bangkok via Singapore on a commercial flight, ending his 52-day self-imposed exile.

“He has been living in a Thai hotel as a virtual prisoner and was keen to return,” a defence official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Grand welcome by colleagues at the Airport [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian]

“We have just created a new security division to protect him after his return,” the official added.
“The unit comprises elements from the army and police commandos.”

Opposition politicians have accused Wickremesinghe of shielding the once-powerful Rajapaksa family.
Sri Lanka’s constitution guarantees bodyguards, a vehicle and housing for former presidents, including Gotabaya and his elder brother and fellow ex-president Mahinda.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation ended his presidential immunity, and rights activists said they would press for his arrest on multiple charges, including his alleged role in the 2009 assassination of prominent newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

“We welcome his decision to return so that we can bring him to justice for the crimes he has committed,” said Tharindu Jayawardhana, a spokesman for the Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association. Rajapaksa also faces charges in a court in the US state of California over Wickrematunge’s murder and the torture of Tamil prisoners at the end of the island’s traumatic civil war in 2009.

Tight security

Singapore declined to extend Rajapaksa’s short-term visa and he travelled to Thailand in August, but authorities in Bangkok instructed him not to step out of his hotel for his own safety.

Rajapaksa’s youngest brother, Basil, the former finance minister, met with Wickremesinghe last month and requested protection to allow the deposed leader to return. On Friday police deployed plainclothes officers and armed guards outside a government residence allocated to Rajapaksa in Colombo ahead of his arrival.

Security at his private home was also stepped up, officials said, adding that he was expected to first visit the family residence.

Sri Lanka has endured months of shortages of crucial goods including food, fuel and medicines, along with lengthy electricity blackouts and skyrocketing inflation after running out of foreign currency to finance essential imports.

New place in Colombo [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian]

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a hammer blow to the island’s tourism industry and dried up remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad — both key foreign exchange earners. Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2019 promising “vistas of prosperity and splendour”, saw his popularity nosedive as hardships multiplied for the country’s 22 million people.

His government was accused of introducing unsustainable tax cuts that drove up government debt and exacerbated the crisis. Wickremesinghe was elected by parliament to see out the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term. He has since cracked down on street protests and arrested leading activists.

The government defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and the central bank forecasts a record eight percent GDP contraction this year.

After months of negotiations, the International Monetary Fund agreed on Thursday to a conditional $2.9 billion bailout package to repair Sri Lanka’s battered finances.

(With inputs from AFP)

China Ready to work with anybody to Ease Sri Lanka’s Burden

“We are ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions to continue to play a positive role in supporting Sri Lanka’s response to current difficulties and efforts to ease debt burden and realize sustainable development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian in a regular press conference held yesterday told the reporters.

“China has paid close attention to the difficulties and challenges faced by Sri Lanka and we have provided help to Sri Lanka’s socioeconomic development to the best of its capacity. China supports relevant financial institutions in consulting with Sri Lanka for proper solutions,” he added.

Meanwhile, according to Xinhua, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday spoke at a virtual international seminar commemorating the 40th anniversary of the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Adopted in 1982, UNCLOS opened a new chapter of global maritime governance, and has greatly helped humanity better understand, protect and utilize the sea, Wang noted.

Wang said a review of its conclusion process, purposes and application provides inspirations in addressing today’s global maritime issues, as it is important to uphold multilateralism, to promote fairness and justice, and to stay open-minded and move forward.

“As a major developing maritime country, China seeks to balance its legitimate rights and interests with the overall interests of the international community, and always stands together with other developing countries. We have participated in the whole process of UNCLOS negotiations, and was among the first countries to sign the Convention,” Wang noted.

China always honors the spirit of UNCLOS, strictly fulfills its obligations, firmly defends the integrity and authority of UNCLOS, and opposes attempts at abusing the dispute settlement procedures of the Convention, he said.

China always believes that maritime disputes should be settled by the parties directly concerned through friendly consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and international laws including UNCLOS, Wang said.

Sri Lanka-IMF: Obligation on Debt Negotiations

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The IMF staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka on a USD2.9 billion programme, confirmed on 1 September, appears to signal a sharp change in policy settings in order to achieve macroeconomic stability, including through large fiscal adjustment, greater exchange-rate flexibility and more central bank autonomy, says Fitch Ratings. This should facilitate negotiations with official and private creditors, but the timing of any debt restructuring agreement remains uncertain.

The Extended Fund Facility will not be approved by the IMF’s Executive Board until the government has implemented a number of agreed prior actions (not publicly specified), financing assurances have been received from official creditors, and good faith efforts have been made to reach agreement with private creditors. The IMF has assessed Sri Lanka’s debt burden as unsustainable, so the outcome of negotiations with creditors should involve debt relief.

Tax reform will be an important element of the agreed programme. Personal income tax will be made more progressive and corporate income tax and VAT will be broadened, with a goal of achieving a primary fiscal surplus of 2.3% of GDP by 2025, compared with a deficit of 5.7% in 2021.

In line with this, the interim 2022 budget unveiled by the new government on 30 August laid out plans to raise the standard rate of VAT to 15% from 12% from 1 September, and proposed compulsory tax registration for all residents aged over 18 years. The budget sought to raise government revenue/GDP from 8.2% in 2021 to 15% by 2025, and to reduce public debt/GDP from around 110% at end-2021 to not more than 100% in the medium term. The revised budget deficit for 2022 is projected at 9.8% of GDP, up from 8.8% of GDP in the original 2022 budget.

Political instability will pose risks to the implementation of reforms and the distribution of IMF funding, even if a debt restructuring is agreed.

We believe the government has some room to reduce capex, but its non-discretionary expenditure is large. Interest payments and wages were equivalent to 1.3x government revenue in 2021. We expect additional revenue raising to be the main driver of fiscal consolidation, but the budget signalled there will be reallocation of expenditure towards social spending to cushion the effects of the economic crisis.

Political instability will pose risks to the implementation of reforms and the distribution of IMF funding, even if a debt restructuring is agreed. Additional social spending may not be sufficient to prevent public opposition, particularly given that the government’s public support appears weak, in our assessment, and that the economic growth recovery in 2023-2024 will be constrained by the strong fiscal consolidation.

Fitch rates Sri Lanka’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency (LTFC) Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘RD’ (Restricted Default). The Long-Term Local-Currency IDR is ‘CCC’, and is Under Criteria Observation following our introduction of +/- modifiers in the ‘CCC’ category. A default on local-currency debt could have adverse effects on Sri Lanka’s banking sector that would erode the net benefits of such a restructuring.

When we affirmed the Long-Term Local-Currency IDR in May, we assumed that the government would continue to service local-currency debt. Nonetheless, the ‘CCC’ rating reflects a high risk that local-currency debt will be included in debt restructuring, as the stock and interest costs are large, and omitting it could increase the restructuring burden on holders of foreign-currency debt. The central bank governor in late August affirmed that Sri Lanka would not restructure domestic debt, but this was partly in response to comments from President Wickremesinghe that appeared to suggest that this policy option was being examined.

Fitch may move Sri Lanka’s LTFC IDR out of ‘RD’ upon the sovereign’s completion of a commercial debt restructuring that we judge to have normalised the relationship with the international financial community.

The above article originally appeared as a post on the Fitch Wire credit market commentary page. The original article can be accessed at www.fitchratings.com. All opinions expressed are those of Fitch Ratings.

Sri Lanka and IMF reach preliminary agreement for $2.9 billion loan

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Crisis-hit Sri Lanka has reached a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan of about $2.9 billion, the international lender said in a statement on Thursday.

“The objectives of Sri Lanka’s new Fund-supported programme are to restore macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability,” the statement said, outlining the 48-month long arrangement under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility.

“Debt relief from Sri Lanka’s creditors and additional financing from multilateral partners will be required to help ensure debt sustainability and close financing gaps,” the statement added.

The debt-laden country has been seeking up to $3 billion from the IMF in a bid to escape its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

Sri Lankans have faced acute shortages of fuel and other basic goods for months, leaving it in political turmoil and hit by runaway inflation, which is now at almost 65% year-on-year.

Click here to read this news on Reuters

( Inputs from Reuters)

Sri Lanka in Crisis: Japan gives Green Light

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Japan is Ready to Coordinate with Creditors

Japan will coordinate with other creditors to resolve Sri Lanka’s deepening financial crisis, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Tuesday, urging all creditor nations to gather and discuss the South Asian nation’s debt at the same table.

“We are concerned about Sri Lanka’s severe socio-economic situation,” Suzuki quoted by Reuters.

Sri Lanka must accelerate talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a bailout, while all bilateral creditors, including China and India, must gather to discuss the issue, Suzuki said.

“Japan wants to actively cooperate with other creditor countries and public organisations.”

Japan is seeking to organise an all creditors’ conference, hoping it could help solve Sri Lanka’s debt crisis, and it is open to hosting such talks possibly with China, sources with knowledge of the situation told Reuters last week.

It remains unclear whether top creditor China would join and a lack of clarity remains about Sri Lanka’s finances, one source told Reuters.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Reuters this month that Sri Lanka would ask Japan to invite the main creditor nations to talks on restructuring bilateral debts. He said he would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo next month.

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Diplomacy: Chinese Ambassador violates the basic diplomatic etiquette – India

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In response to the opinion of the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Qi Zhenhong published in Sri Lanka Guardian last Friday, India stated that what Colombo needed now was “support, not unwanted pressure or unnecessary controversies” to serve another country’s agenda. Referring to India’s concerns about the docking of a Chinese spy ship in Hambantota, China on Friday said that “external obstruction” based on so-called security concerns without any evidence is a “thorough interference” into Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence.

“We have noted the remarks of the Chinese ambassador. His violation of basic diplomatic etiquette may be a personal trait or reflecting a larger national attitude,” the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka tweeted. It said Qi’s view of India may be coloured by how his own country behaves. “India, we assure him, is very different,” the Indian mission here said. The ambassador’s imputing a geopolitical context to the visit of a purported scientific research vessel is a giveaway, the mission said, adding that “opaqueness and debt driven agendas are now a major challenge, especially for smaller nations. Recent developments are a caution”.

In a statement hinting at India’s objection to the docking of a Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ ship at the Hambantota port, Zhenhong said that China was happy that the matter was dealt with and Beijing and Colombo jointly safeguard each other’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. “External obstruction based on so-called security concerns but without any evidence from certain forces is de facto a thorough interference into Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence,” the Chinese Ambassador noted in his opinion.

The high-tech ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ was initially scheduled to arrive at the Chinese-run port on August 11 but it was delayed due to the mounting pressure from Indian officials on Sri Lankan authorities. However, respecting the diplomatic values Sri Lanka finally decided for the ship to dock in the port of Hambantota on August 16 for replenishment.

There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the Chinese vessel’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian defence installations while being on their way to the Sri Lankan port. However, independent Indian defence excerpts rebuked the tizzy of Indian media and some Indian officials reaffirming that the Chinese research vassal called in a port in Sri Lanka for purely genuine reasons.